GCCC and two other Kansas community colleges serving as pilot locations this week for Regents
When Anna Wiebe of Ingalls walked into Saffell Library this morning at Garden City Community College to take the first tests toward earning her GED, she hadn’t expected to find two officials of the Kansas Board of Regents waiting to wish her well.
Wiebe, however, is the first person in the western third of Kansas -- and the eighth in the entire state -- to begin the five-exam GED testing process via computer, rather than on pencil and paper.
Before signing in at the GCCC Assessment Center, she visited briefly with Liz Conrade, academic affairs consultant for the board that governs and coordinates higher education in Kansas, as well as Dr. Craig A. Haugsness, private postsecondary business analyst for the board. She also met Scott Salesses, field outreach manager for GED Testing Service of Washington, DC.
GED testing for people across Kansas is moving online under a new initiative of the Regents, and GCCC began serving this week as one of the state’s first three computerized, online testing sites.
“We’re referring to this as our launch week,” said Kellee Munoz, accommodations coordinator and coordinator of the assessment center.
GED stands for “General Educational Development” and all GED testing in Kansas takes place under authorization of the Regents. Successful completion of the five standard tests provides a credential equivalent to a Kansas high school diploma.
“In striving to provide more adult learners throughout the state with a high school credential and basic technology skills, the Kansas Board of Regents is partnering with GED Testing Service to offer the GED test on computer,” said Vanessa Lamoreaux, Regents associate director of communications.
Online registration and scheduling became available to test-takers in Kansas on Sept. 20 and testing started Sept. 25. The three pilot locations include GCCC; Hutchinson Community College, where three individuals took the tests earlier this week; and Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, where four more began testing today.
“I didn’t know I would be the first one and the only one,” Wiebe said, “but it’s still just a test, so I know I’ll be fine.” She was taking one examination in the morning and another in the afternoon, but some of the sign-in process was still on paper.
Unrattled by the attention, the 20-year-old said she felt confident, prepared and ready.
“My motto is just tell yourself that it’s going to be fine,” she told the officials, as well as Munoz and a small group of GCCC personnel who were on hand to note the occasion.
Wiebe added that she was inspired to begin her GED studies by her husband and sister-in-law, who have already done the same. Though expecting a baby soon, she said she would also consider additional education in the future.
Testing hours at the center run from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, as well as 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays. The center may be reached at 620-276-9671, but Southwest Kansans interested in GED testing and classes should first contact the GCCC Adult Learning Center at 620-276-7600.
The ALC, headquartered on the lower level of the GCCC Student and Community Services Center, offers classes year-round for immigrant and native adults preparing for the examinations, according to GED Coordinator Diane Garvey, who was also on hand to meet Wiebe.
“This is something we’ve been working toward for a long time,” Munoz said.
The American Council on Education is the sole developer of the GED test, which involves five separate examinations in the areas of language arts and writing, social studies, reading, mathematics and science. Each state sets individual minimum standards for passing, and until now most testing across the U.S. has taken place in a traditional pencil-and-paper format.
“As society integrates technology into almost every facet of life, and the job market continues to be shaped by technology, adults will need basic technology skills to be successful,” said Randy Trask, president of GED Testing Service, which is providing the online exams. “Moving the GED test to computer helps adults demonstrate necessary basic technology skills and makes their testing process easier and more efficient.”
GED Testing Service is an affiliate of the American Council on Education and Pearson VUE, an international online testing organization. Conrade said the Regents selected the organization to operate the computerized system, and that the previous tests in Hutchinson and Overland park had proceeded flawlessly.
“The capacity to test on computer introduces new levels of flexibility, technology and service to students, which reflects our desire to make the GED accessible,” said Dr. Andy Tompkins, Regents chief executive officer, who visited GCCC last week.
Plans call for the computerized tests to be offered statewide, after an initial period involving only GCCC, HCC and JCCC. Salesses said the exams would be available in Spanish as well as English by the end of the year.
Online, computerized GED testing first became available to U.S. test takers in January, and so far approximately 12,000 individuals have taken their exams through the new method. The service has projected that half of the states in the U.S. will offer computerized, online testing by the end of 2012.
Traditional paper tests may eventually be eliminated, but Munoz said they will remain an option for individuals at GCCC in the foreseeable future. The paper and computerized GED tests are the same, and anyone sitting for the exams must do so at an official GED testing center, such as the GCCC Assessment Center.